Updated: Jun 6, 2018
Donna Esposito, Director of the Vander Veer Research Center at ESAM, was the guest speaker at ESAM’s Annual Dinner Meeting on October 18, 2017. Esposito spoke about her two recent trips to the Solomon Islands in a talk entitled “Guadalcanal: 75 Years Later.” Her slideshow featured historical photos of the World War II Solomons Campaign, which began with the August 7, 1942 invasion of Guadalcanal by US Marines, contrasted with present-day photos from her trips.
Photos included Henderson Field, the strategically important airfield started by the
Japanese and finished by the Americans which became the home of the Cactus Air Force, a group of US Marine, Navy, and Army Air Force pilots flying together. Now the site of Honiara International Airport, the original control tower is still standing. Esposito played an original recording of the Henderson Field air raid siren and anti-aircraft fire. She showed photos of wreckages on display at local museums including P-38, P-39, F4F, and F4U fighters and an SDB dive bomber. She also showed photos of the re-use of wartime materials like Marston matting from runways as building materials.
Esposito described war relics on display and offered for sale by local residents, including the data plate from a New York-made Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat fighter that crashed in 1942. The pilot, Lt. Oscar M. Bate who flew with top Marine ace Joe Foss, bailed out and survived the war.
Esposito, along with Justin Taylan of the nonprofit organization Pacific Wrecks, visited the crash site in the jungle and discovered that some of the wreckage had been illegally salvaged. Esposito highlighted the need to document and protect crash sites, especially as many may still have human remains of missing-in-action personnel associated with them.